Tuesday, 23 February 2010
I’ve always had a quizzical outlook towards milk. Stood there in a glass it may all look the same but from an early age I knew there were distinct differences in the white stuff. Add to that a creepy milkman who would leer at my mum when he came to collect the money at the end of the week, Ernie I think his name was, and it’s not hard to understand why a young boy would have such a skeptical approach to milk.
In our house growing up, like many households across the country, we always had semi-skimmed, the green labeled middle road in the milk world. We got the occasional treat of some full fat whenever dad was left to do the shopping on his own, “what your mum buys is women’s milk and we should have the proper stuff once in a while to remind us we’re men.” Words I carry with me every time I go shopping. If my sister and I didn’t cause too much trouble, fight, or go missing in the supermarket then we were often rewarded with a carton of chocolate milk to keep us quiet on the drive home. Magic milk he called it, the magic being that it kept us quiet for about ten minutes, just long enough to get back home.
On rainy days when mum would sometimes bake a cake. I would watch in the hope she would open the tall cupboard and take a can of condensed milk. She would place it in a pan of simmering water and a few hours later I would help her spread the thick caramel over whatever cake she had made. Sometimes we wouldn’t even have a cake, reduced to simply spreading it over the back of digestives whilst mum brewed up some hot chocolate.
Most weekends my sister and I would stay at our Grandparents. Breakfast consisted of toast, always toast. They only had red-top in their house due to my Grandmothers diabetes and to save any confusion my Granddad had adapted happily. Skimmed milk seemed like a punishment to us and to escape corn flakes dowsed in pale flavourless fluid my sister and I always opted for the toast. As I grew older and visited less and less, I soon learned to take my coffee black, an appreciation I have only the red labeled imposter to thank for. So something good came of the wimpy white water.
When I left school I decided to go and live in Austria for a season snowboarding. For some unknown reason the valley in which I lived only had one option for milk. You would think, that being the postcardesque idyll that is the Austrian countryside, that there was an abundance of pipe smoking farmers, young blonde girls running through the long grass and small boys dressed in lederhosen ready to happily wrestle a goat to the ground and fill my pail at the faintest yodel in their general direction. No, that was not the solitary milk option available in the depths of the Tyrolean mountains. Ultra High temperature, or U.H.T. is a process in which the milk is brought up to a temperature of at least 135˚C to burn off any harmful bacteria that may be present in the milk. Along with what little characteristics the white liquid has left. The benefit of UHT milk is the long shelf life? The downsides would be it tastes like the yellow tainted water you receive from an old dirty tap and that it instantly ruins a good cup of tea. Needless to say, my stainless steel teapot I had brought along with me went back in my bag and I turned to the afore mentioned black coffee for the winter.
My mum came to collect me from Gatwick six months later to find her son pale with a nervous twitch holding a triple espresso and looking every bit the Vietnam war veteran. My god what happened out there? She sobbed.
In more recent years I have come into close contact with probably the most revolting product to bear the name milk. In fact I can’t for the life of me figure out how it dares call itself a milk. The M-word is far too superior a word to be brandished across packaging for such an offensive liquid. I feel for the people who have to use soya milk due to dietary requirements but there are people out there who actively choose to drink this stuff.
We’ve had a rocky relationship over the years Milk and I. I’m forever taking her for granted, not giving her the respect and care she deserves. I have flirted to the very edge of seduction with alternatives but the fact remains, I’m a semi-skimmed man, green labeled through and through. It may be boring but the occasional fling with some full fat or even Jersey milk is like a nice long holiday, fantastically different but always nice to get back. What are your milk preferences? Do you have any traumatic memories of the white stuff?